Washington Capitals forward Nicolas Aube-Kubel has been suspended three games for an illegal check to the head of Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Cal Foote.

Aube-Kubel’s illegal hit came 1:52 into the second period when the two teams met on Friday in D.C.  Foote passed the puck into the offensive zone as Aube-Kubel, cutting laterally across the ice at the blueline, delivered a hard hit, driving his shoulder into Foote’s head.

Referees Gord Dwyer and Graham Skilliter issued a match penalty for the hit, ejecting Aube-Kubel from the game.


The hit sparked an on-ice brawl that saw Washington’s Garnet Hathaway square off against Tampa’s Pat Maroon, in an altercation that saw both combatants pick up additional fines.

Rule 48 covers illegal checks to the head:

An illegal Check to the Head [is a] hit resulting in contact with an opponent’s head where the head was the main point of contact and such contact to the head was avoidable is not permitted.

In determining whether contact with an opponent’s head was avoidable, the circumstances of the hit including the following shall be considered:

(i) Whether the player attempted to hit squarely through the opponent’s body and the head was not “picked” as a result of poor timing, poor angle of approach, or unnecessary extension of the body upward or outward.

(ii) Whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position by assuming a posture that made head contact on an otherwise full body check unavoidable.

(iii) Whether the opponent materially changed the position of his body or head immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit in a way that significantly contributed to the head contact.

For violation of this rule, a minor penalty shall be assessed. The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent with an illegal check to the head.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety confirmed the officials’ on-ice call in their suspension, deeming it a “high, hard check that makes the head the main point of contact on a hit where such contact was avoidable.”

This is his first suspension; he has been fined twice previously – once for roughing and once for kneeing.

Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and, based on his average annual salary, Aube-Kubel forfeits $16,216.23 in salary as a result of the suspension.


The Washington Capitals went on to win the game 5-1. Referees were Gord Dwyer (#19) and Graham Skilliter (#24), skating alongside linesmen Derek Nansen (#70) and Michel Cormier (#76).